John Ross interview, 13 August 2012, 20 August 2012 and 27 August 2012

Dublin Core


John Ross interview, 13 August 2012, 20 August 2012 and 27 August 2012


Science; Psychology


Emeritus Professor John Ross began work in the department of Psychology at the University of Western Australia in 1961. In 1968 he was promoted to Senior Lecturer and in 1970 became the Department’s second Chair and later the Departmental Head. Professor Ross specialised in the field of saccadic eye movement and has garnered international recognition for his work with biological visual systems.


Ross, John


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


John Ross


Interview 1: 58 minutes, 25 seconds
Interview 2: 53 minutes, 13 seconds
Interview 3: 1 hour, 3minutes
Total: 2 hours, 54 minutes, 38 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1

00:00:00 Introduction, origins, father’s war hero brother. North Sydney Boys High School - selective high school. Commonwealth Office of Education. UNESCO. University student on a full wage.
00:05:00 Liking psychology. Employee of the Commonwealth. Approval from the minister Paul Hasluck*. Working at the University of Sydney. Going to Princeton University. Special assistance service.
00:09:15 Australians and tennis. Personal assistant. Academic qualities and Mrs. Myers*. Myres Briggs type indicator.
00:14:45 White Anglo-Saxon Protestant stereotypes. Sydney University or UWA.
00:18:00 Why UWA? Memories of psychology.
00:21:45 Coming to UWA in 1961. Memories of UWA and Perth. University and women. The Tuart club. University wages.
00:25:55 Debate and learning. Academics very influential. Agriculture and Eric Underwood. Trace elements in the WA soil could be fixed. Gladstones and the potential for growing wines.
00:27:30 Discovery of mineral and economic potential of the state. The effect of migrants. Ron Taft and Alan Richardson. Assimilation of migrants into the state.
00:29:30 Deficiency in disabled facility. Aubrey Little*, Eldam Morey. The community of intellectualism in 1961. Alan Edwards and the New Fortune Theatre. Nolan paintings. Memories of Underwood and general intellectual staff. Faculty of Psychology.
00:34:00 Teaching and research university. George Seddon*. UWA and its intellectual internationalism. Asian and European influence.
00:38:20 Quality of students and staff. Standards – Princeton and international comparisons. Technical facilities at the university.
00:42:00 Psychometrics and publication in journals. Princeton, visual perception. The Ames Room.
00:46:50 Visual perception, developments of study and research. Light strip, impact on the brain. Moving signs. Betagraph*. Success in marketing. Gloucester park Betagraph.
00:51:35 Attempts to make money and funding. Television signals and Merrill Lynch*. Being inventive. Carnarvon tracking station. Establishment of the visual laboratory.
00:55:20 Australian Research Grants Committee. Cost of computers. Mathematical structure and mathematical analysis. NASA and startling research at UWA.

Interview 2

00:00:00 Elaborating on the vision laboratory. Applying mathematical techniques. Becoming a full professor.
00:04:48 American academia and psychometric stuff. Computers and Visual Perception. Isaac Newton. Problems of displaying results. Research grant application. Psychometrics. Refugee Montey* and the Carnarvon tracking station.
00:10:20 Carnarvon, lab, getting equipment. The visual system and differences of the eye. Stereopsis experiments. Three dimensional psychometrics. Straight and dynamic stereopsis*.
00:14:25 Point stereoscopes. Information and storing of visual system. Resources of visual perception.
00:17:15 New lab and studies and UWA standing. New way of television. Random scanning. Monitoring systems. Sending encrypted pictures. The Bell Labs. Building a model of the encrypting method. Minister of defence. Trouble with American defence and Pine Gap.
00:22:40 Cheaper methods of display system and the Betagraph. UWA were beating the gong and the random scanning TV taken to Trade fair in Chicago. Prescott and the front page news.
00:25:00 Support from UWA. Donation and financial systems. Vice Chancellor and special meeting of the Senate. Being crucified by the Chancellor. University and decision-making committee.
00:29:00 No people who were support for the visual lab. Inventions.
00:30:55 Saccadies and vision laboratory. Amazing factors of the eye movement and judgement of a subject. Dave Bure – Moroney*. Nobel prize winner and the Korean institute. Movement of the eye and a stable image.
00:34:45 How does the system work. The brain makes the adjustment. Shifting point of reference. Working out cute experiments. Compression of space.
00:37:50 Travel. National Institutes for Health. Changes with the operation of the physiology of the eye. Movement of the eye in a lifetime. Working in the Bell labs.
00:40:30 Research at the bell labs. Money and huge discovery. Interaction, Cambridge and Commonwealth Fellow. Fellow of St John’s. Physiology.
00:43:35 Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research. Growth of the department and PhDs. Committee work, politics. Carmen Lawrence detests doctors. Strategic plan of the country. Medicine run from Melbourne.
00:47:11 Carmen Lawrence and the head of the planning committee for National and Research Council. MHNRC. Running the organisation. Development of career and directing the department. One Professor system. Retaining important people. First and second professor system. The professorial board. Reader and deputy professor. Status of professor has gone. The Doctor Professor.

Interview 3

00:00:00 Seeing psychology of UWA. Memories of the temporary building and shambles. Lack of professor of psychology. Kenneth Walker* Professor. Comparison to the European views of psychology. Moral philosophy and the shame discipline. Walter Murdoch and Murdoch University. Split in psychology
00:04:55 Scientists and practitioners of psychology. Freud. Humanistic and scientific practitioners. Experiments and the science. Tension and internal conflict. Animals and experiments.
00:08:35 Struggling with the problem and becoming a reputable subject. Experimental psychology is harder. Humanistic and clinical proportion split. Changes in department and current perceptions.
00:11:45 Components of the department. Study in child study centre. Helping adult and mental illness. Friction between in medicine and psychologist. Interactions between Faculties. Understanding the history of psychology. Comparisons between Psychology and Law building.
00:18:11 Prescott era and entrenched views. Mandatory to wear a gown. University hierarchy. Staff meeting and impromptu speech. Keach* and the opened and closed mind.
00:21:51 Studies, animals. Jarvis* accountant, visual experiments on counting. The number four.
00:29:00 Animals, counting, making judgements on numbers. Brain and visual system. Quantitative calculations. Big groups in England. University College London and College de France fighting over findings.
00:33:33 Earliest development of perception. The Visual Cliff. Children, cats, octopus. Solidifying the community of academic learning. Drawing people from all sorts of disciplines.
00:37:50 Thoughts on university, specialities. Saccadic Eye Movements.
00:40:30 Changes in University – bureaucracy, money, community. Real research outside university. Training and teaching. Academy and Greek experience.
00:43:40 Learning, lecturing, studying, advice. Oppenheim* and lighting cigarettes and Tompkins* hand gestures.
00:47:25 Learning more and growing up. Joining in at the university. Changes. Psychology and expansion. Internet and social media. Staff and student interactions.
00:52:50 Improving the course structure. Teaching outside areas of interest. University jobs and the cost of high class cognac.. Centres of scholarship. Competitive, Cambridge and Oxford. Oxford and drunkenness.
00:57:00 High point of University the government and money. Menzies, Whitlam and Dawkins. University and mass education. Ratings and world standards. Harvard and lowering of standards. The quality of education. Final words and doing a dreary job. Surviving and poor quality of journals. Lang Hancock.



Ross, John, “John Ross interview, 13 August 2012, 20 August 2012 and 27 August 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,